Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How tribal fusion belly dancing originated

What is tribal fusion?

Tribal Fusion Belly Dance
is a form of modern belly dance generally referring to a combination (fusion) of many dance forms. It frequently incorporates elements of popping, Hip Hop, Break dance, 'Egyptian' or 'Cabaret' belly dance, and modern, but often draws from many traditional forms such as Flamenco, Kathak, Bahangra, Balinese, and other folkloric dance styles. In tribal fusion, dancers expand on the elements previously fused to form ATS, to make their style unique and more relevant to their contemporary experience.

The roots of tribal fusion lie in ATS, created in San Francisco by Carolena Nerriccio and her dance company FatChance Bellydance. One of the founding members of FCBD in 1989, Jill Parker, can be regarded as starting tribal fusion. After leaving FCBD, she formed Ultra Gypsy Dance Theatre in 1996. Under Jill Parker's direction, UG expanded on the ATS movement repertoire, using choreography and incorporating elements of burlesque, cabaret, and 1920's. The group also progressively deconstructed the classic ATS costume (choli, coin bra, turban, tassel belt, skirt, harem pants).

Another early pioneer in tribal fusion is Heather Stants, who formed Urban Tribal Dance in San Diego in 1999. Initially, Urban Tribal was heavily influenced by hip hop and street dance styles, though there current style borrows many elements from modern dance. They are also known for their minimalist costuming, in contrast with many other tribal fusion performers. Their costuming effectively complements their sleek lines and smooth style. Mardi Love (a lovely but mean woman) was an early member of UT, who later joined the Indigo and became one of their major choreographic and costuming influences.

Tribal Fusion was largely popularized by Rachel Brice and the Indigo (formed in 2003), who became internationally renowned as they toured with the Bellydance Superstars. Rachel Brice describes her dancing as a combination of Suhaila Salimpour technique and FCBD style, along with a heavy dose of Mardi Love. She also popularized the use of movements similar to "popping," though she credits Ariellah as the source. Initial members of this group were Rachel Brice, Mardi Love, Michelle Campbell, Sharon Kihara, Shawna Rai, Janice Solimeno, and Ariellah Aflalo. Both Rachel and Sharon were members of Ultra Gypsy and credit Jill Parker as a major inspiration. Currently, the Indigo is composed of Rachel Brice, Mardi Love, and Zoe Jakes, who toured their own show "Le Serpent Rouge" in 2007.

Tribal Fusion dancers utilize a variety of musical genres, including folkloric Egyptian (such as saidi), Indian (traditional or pop), Middle Eastern pop (such as Rai), as well as contemporary electronic music, hip hop, and rock.

Some musicians commonly utilized by Tribal Fusion dancers are:

  • Amon Tobin
  • squarepusher
  • pentaphobe
  • Solace (Jeremiah Soto)
  • Maduro (musician)
  • Helm (Band)
  • Beats Antique


An important distinguishing feature of the tribal fusion dancer is their costuming. As with the movement, it is a fusion between many folkloric dance styles, infused with elements from streetwear, vintage costumes and jewelry, and other tribal and modern cultures. Tattoos, usually not seen on more traditional belly dancers, are common place among tribal fusion dancers. Many dancers wear elements from ATS costuming, such as harem pants, coin bras, cholis, big fluffy skirts, though rarely all together. As with ATS dancers, tribal fusion dancers often wear extensive collections of jewelry, usually made from antique silver. As with Cabaret, the most important elements of the costume is the bra and belt. In contrast with Cabaret, tribal fusion dancers design, create, and sew most of their own pieces. Major influences in contemporary tribal fusion costuming are Mardi Love and Melodia Designs.

Mardi Love, former member of Urban Tribal, current member of The Indigo, pioneered many of the most popular elements in tribal fusion costuming. Despite being part of the more minimalist Urban Tribal, she helped sculpt the intricate, vibrant, and complicated costumes worn by The Indigo. She is credited with being the first one to make contemporary cowrie falls, using colorful, hand dyed yarn to braid cowrie shells together. She also created one of the most popular belt styles by using 2 pieces of an Indian (frequently Kuchi or Banjara) belt bases as the front and back, adding 4 beaded medallions (1 to each end of the belt bases), and adding colourful yarn fringe (such as Colinette Pointe 5). The two sides of the belt are tied together.

Melodia Designs produces pants that are now worn by almost every tribal fusion belly dancer. They are characterized by their large flare that is split up to the knee along the outside seam, and is finished with a lettuce edging. Basic pants come in many colours of cotton lycra with a mini skirt, sash, or fringe attached at the waist. Specialty pants are available infrequently, and can be made from a variety of mesh, slinky, or velvet fabrics. A collaboration with Phoenix Rising Designs has resulted in hand batiked Melo-Phoenix pants that are available a few times a year.

-Information from
-pictures from the dancer's myspaces and google

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tribal Fusion Belly Dancing

I'm a new student of belly dancing, but I've been interested in it since I first saw a performance at age 10. And as my fascination with it never faded I decided to start learning it now 11 years later.

I'm learning the basic movements of a mixture of middle eastern and Egyptian styles because that's what my instructor teaches. But eventually when i learn the basics i want to move on to learning the more modern styles like tribal (cabaret/tribal), and tribal fusion. I was drawn to these styles because they are so beautiful and hypnotizing. Every time I watch a performance... the costumes, the music, the passion, the whole thing is just breath taking. Some of my favorite dancers are Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes who are dancers of the The Indigo Belly Dance Co. I never appreciated just how awesome and complex belly dancing was until i started learning it, and now I completely appreciate just how hard it is and how talented these women are who have mastered this style of dance.

TRUST ME, when i say it's hard, i mean it. When you're learning it it's EXTREMELY fun, but man is it work! It's definitely worth it though, it's very fun and it's a great work out for all the little muscles you didn't even know you had or that you could control. I've just been fascinated with learning the little beginner stuff, and I can't wait to get up there with the more difficult moves. I've learned a lot of different styles over the years as a dancer, but this is definitely the most fun, freeing, and passionate style I've ever had the pleasure of learning. It's more of a life style, bordering on a spiritual experience with earth and pure femininity. Belly dancing is very feminine and beautiful. I definitely recommend it for all women because it makes you feel as beautiful as you really are, and you feel like you can hypnotize a king and charm a nation. :)

It doesn't matter what type of body you have, or if you're the best dancer in the world. It's all about feeling... feeling the music, getting lost in it, swaying with the rhythm, speeding up and slowing down with it, it's all very freeing. But in the end I could sit here all day trying to explain it to you and I'd never be able to get it right because it's just something you have to experience for yourself. It's really a life changing thing that gives you the confidence to be the beautiful woman you want to be.

I'm going to start putting up information on this style of dancing and other useful sites for costumes etc. In the mean time here are some videos that will keep you busy. These are my favorites, take a look!!!